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Freeman v. Glanz

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 13, 2017

CATHERINE LEE FREEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
STANLEY GLANZ, in his individual capacity; VIC REGALADO, TULSA COUNTY SHERIFF, in his official capacity; ARMOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC., a foreign corporation; and AMERICAN MEDICAL RESPONSE AMBULANCE SERVICE, INC., a foreign corporation, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James H. Payne United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Petition (Doc. No. 11). After consideration of the briefs, and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Catherine Lee Freeman (“Plaintiff”) filed this action to recover against the defendants for alleged violations of the Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff also brings state law tort claims for negligence, a claim pursuant to the Oklahoma Constitution, and a claim for punitive damages. The First Amended Petition names as defendants (1) Stanley Glanz, in his individual capacity, (2) Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, in his official capacity, (3) Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc., (“Armor”) and (4) American Medical Response Ambulance Service, Inc. (Doc. No. 3-3).

         According to the First Amended Petition, on September 15, 2014, Plaintiff was sentenced in Tulsa County District Court to a three-year prison term for Driving Under the Influence, and she was taken into custody on that day. (Doc. No. 3-3, ¶¶ 21-22). Plaintiff was transported to the Tulsa County Jail to await transfer to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. (Id. ¶ 22). When Plaintiff was taken into custody, she was taking prescribed Lexapro and Valium for anxiety and depression, and Percocet and Extended Release Morphine for pain. (Id. ¶ 23). However, Plaintiff did not have these prescription medications with her when she was taken into custody, and she was not allowed to have her prescription medications brought to her. (Id. ¶ 24).

         Upon arrival at the Tulsa County Jail, Plaintiff told the jail and medical personnel that she was on these medications and needed to keep taking them; otherwise she risked withdrawal complications, including seizures and suicidal thoughts. (Id. ¶¶ 25-29). Plaintiff repeatedly notified the Tulsa County Jail through the kiosk system of her needs regarding her medications. (Id. ¶ 27). Because of the risk to Plaintiff of suicidal thoughts from medication withdrawal, Plaintiff was placed on “suicide watch” for a period of time. (Id. ¶¶ 30-32). However, jail and medical staff otherwise “failed and/or refused to address Plaintiff's medical needs regarding her withdrawal symptoms.” (Id. ¶ 33).

         In late September and early October, Plaintiff began having seizures, which “[j]ail and/or medical personnel did not properly and effectively medically treat.” (Id. ¶ 34). Plaintiff's seizures increased in length, and Plaintiff was taken to the medical unit, although the jail and/or medical personnel still did not properly and effectively treat Plaintiff for her seizures. (Id. ¶ 35). On October 4, 2014, Plaintiff had a seizure that lasted longer than ten minutes. (Id. ¶ 36). At that point, jail and/or medical personnel called for an ambulance to take Plaintiff to the hospital. (Id.). By the time the ambulance arrived, Plaintiff was already turning blue from lack of oxygen and in dire need of immediate care. (Id. ¶ 37). As a result of the ambulance personnel's alleged negligence, Plaintiff suffered further serious injury. (Id. ¶¶ 39-49). Plaintiff had to be placed on a ventilator, had emergency surgery to repair a torn esophagus, needed a feeding tube, and suffered an anoxic brain injury. (Id. ¶¶ 44-49). When Plaintiff was returned to the Tulsa County Jail on a feeding tube, Armor's employees and agents were not equipped to handle her needs, and she was further harmed from inadequate medical care at their hands. (Id. ¶¶ 52-53).

         Plaintiff asserts a total of nine causes of action against four defendants. Relevant to Armor's Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff seeks: (1) relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Armor for cruel and unusual punishment in violation of Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, by being deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs, health, and safety (Count VII); (2) recovery against Armor for negligence in failing to provide adequate or timely evaluation and treatment of Plaintiff and in failing to reasonably or timely treat Plaintiff's serious medical condition (Count II); and (3) recovery against Armor for negligent hiring, training, and supervision of its agents and employees (Count V) (Id. ¶¶ 85-93, 108-113, 136-145). Plaintiff seeks damages for her injuries and pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages against Armor.

         Defendant Armor has now filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claims against it pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which any relief can be granted as a matter of law.

         DISCUSSION

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, and must construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Anderson v. Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith, Inc., 521 F.3d 1278, 1284 (10th Cir. 2008). To withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Tenth Circuit has stated that “plausibility” in this context refers “to the scope of the allegations in the complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs ‘have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569). The plaintiff bears the burden to frame “a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” that he or she is entitled to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

         I. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claim Against Armor

         A. Constitutional Violation - Deliberate Indifference

         First, Armor contends that Plaintiff fails to plead sufficient facts to show that Armor was deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs in denying her adequate medical care while she was incarcerated. Section 1983 provides a claim for relief against state actors for violation of a plaintiff's federal rights. Becker v. Kroll, 494 F.3d 904, 914 (10th Cir. 2007). Under the Eighth Amendment, prisoners have a constitutional right to medical care, which is violated when doctors or prison officials are deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1976). The Tenth Circuit recognizes two types of conduct amounting to deliberate indifference in the context of prisoner medical care. “First, a medical professional may fail to treat a serious medical condition properly.” Sealock v. Colorado, 218 F.3d 1205, 1211 (10th Cir. 2000). When this type of conduct is alleged, “the medical professional has available the defense that he was merely negligent in diagnosing or treating the medical condition, rather than deliberately indifferent.” Id. (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06). Second, prison officials may “prevent an inmate from receiving treatment or deny him access to medical personnel capable of evaluating the need for treatment.” Id. (citing Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 575 (10th Cir. 1980)). A prison medical professional, such as a booking nurse, who serves solely “as a gatekeeper for other medical personnel capable of treating the condition” may be liable under this standard if he or she “delays or refuses to fulfill that gatekeeper role due to deliberate indifference.” Id.

         Deliberate indifference “involves both an objective and a subjective component.” Olsen v. Layton Hills Mall, 312 F.3d 1304, 1315 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Sealock, 218 F.3d at 1209). To satisfy the objective component, “the alleged deprivation must be ‘sufficiently serious' to constitute a deprivation of constitutional dimension.” Self v. Crum, 439 F.3d 1227, 1230 (10th Cir. 2006) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). “A medical need is sufficiently serious ‘if it is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.'” Sealock, 218 F.3d at 1209 (quoting Hunt v. Uphoff,199 F.3d 1220, 1224 (10th Cir.1999)). The question raised by the objective ...


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